Songs For Sunday School competitions - Need Urgent Advice
This is regarding the song 'Shemamotangezhunnelluka sakshal idaya panditha nayakane....' , sung during the morning worship every Wednesday and Sunday during the Sleeba season. I'm writing this letter to bring to your attention an unpleasant situation I encountered during a major competition for Sunday School students in July this year.
Two teams that I trained sang this song in the 'group song' category in the junior section and the senior section. Once the competition was over, one of the two priest judges, in an analysis, made a remark that though some students sang very well, they had distorted the tune that we use in the liturgy and that such 'inventions' are not acceptable. Then I pointed out that this particular tune is the original tune of this worship song. To buttress the point, I pointed out that this song was sung in this tune at a programme, La Moriyo Zegtho, organised by the Bangalore Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church on October 23, 2012. Please seek the YouTube link
Rev. Fr. John Samuel (Roy Achen) conducted this chamber orchestra and deacon Abraham Philip (who was the master of the ceremony) introduced this song as one in original Syriac tune. According to deacon Abraham Philip, Fr. John Samuel is an ardent student of music and has been training in music for the past 15 years. He is an authority in music direction. Currently, he has been assigned to create on digital media a narrative of all sacraments of the Church in combination with its visuals and hymns in the most traditional style. The whole programme was brought out as CD and DVD this year by the Bangalore diocese and all these facts are mentioned in the CD and the DVD.
According to the master of the ceremony, ''the tune chanted here would perhaps be very unlike the tune that we are used to, since we will be hearing this hymn as it was tuned in the original Syriac tradition.'
Here in lies the catch. One of the judges at the Dioscorous competition makes an allegation that the tune has been distorted by us and thereby we have become ineligible to get any prize. On the contrary, Fr. John Samuel and Deacon Abraham Philip assert that the tune is in original Syriac tradition. We selected the song for the competition going by their words on the CD and DVD.
Since the co-curricular competitions of Sunday School begin in August, we would like to know the real fact: whether this is original Syriac tune or a distorted one. Whether we would become ineligible to get prize if we sing this song in the coming Sunday School competitions at various levels. If this is original Syriac tune, the word must go to each and every judge that students singing this song would in no way become ineligible or disqualified, just because the judges are not aware of these Syriac tunes. Some students take pain (as in our case) to introduce a variety of Syriac tunes to make the competition more attractive and to impress the judges. They should not feel discouraged simply because of the ignorance of judges.
If this is not the original Syriac tune, we would like to stand corrected.
Thomas Jacob Nishanth, Thiruvananthapuram
- It is highly commendable that such young kids are taking so much effort to learn our songs. It is even more commendable that teachers are so passionate about teaching them. The competition has definitely helped in this manner.
It is nice to know that priests are taking interest in judging competition even in their extremely busy schedule.
With so much energy and passion seen, all Orthodox should be happy.
In situations of such high energy and expectations, it is but natural to make errors of judgement on part of both participants and judges.
God's grace and the Holy Spirit will no doubt help both to lovingly forgive each other's mistake and in great secrecy correct each other since the ultimate aim of taking students closer to God is been achieved.
I have played college sports and one thing we learnt was to accept the judges' decision even if we feel they are wrong. To humbly ask for a review if we feel an error was made and then when the tournament is done, go celebrate, the defeated and the victors together.
Irrespective of whether the decision is reviewed or corrections made, I congratulate both the Priests and the participants for their efforts. The decision in my opinion is irrelevant. Thanks for posting the two good videos.
Joe Joshua Kochitty, Mumbai
- Dear Thomas Jacob Nishanth
It is good that you are using this avenue to voice your concerns.
In the first place, the Holy Liturgy and its parts to worship derived from Greek "leitourgía" - Work of the people, which is sacred and within Holy Orthodoxy ( Right Glory - Glory to God) is for use by the Church and within the Church.
I cite the example when the early Christians martyred after accused of cannibalism by the Romans did not go out and explain to those outside of the Church what the ' Flesh and Body' which they had participated at Qurbana mean.
Instead we have commercialized , taken glory for what we had only got to have as part of our tradition because of providence by God and our interaction with the west Syrian Orthodox Christians .
My suggestion for you is to back off from winning and losing game and go back to basics -
1.Write out the Syrian song in English/ Malayalam .
2. Obtain or have translation of the words in Malayalam / English and Learn it for yourself.
3. Next participate in Wednesday and Sunday worship within the Church during upcoming Sleebha season from September 14, 2013.
4. Share it with your Sunday school participants and here and offer it so that they and any of us who have a chance to attend too a worship within the Church may use it to reflect and offer it more fully
5. The tunes and words were developed over a period and as a community within the cultural and historical background and so it would be wise to teach the Sunday school children the song in Malayalam or English and without instruments so that they understand and know why they are learning it and not for any competition ,but for offering their own selves from within to God as part of Church when we get together . ( This task is beyond ourselves and so we could pray and Lord have mercy to bring fruit)
P.S - Also can you share with the Sunday school students about St. Dioscorus if you believe the organizers / judges of the competition may perhaps missed out to explain
- dear joe,
what an amazing take on the whole competition spirit. i thank God Almighty for such discernment from a youngster. i wish and pray that all our competitions (and competitors) imbibe this wisdom, rather than only reading it. your post basically sums up the spirit of obedience, celebration and empathy of the roles played (participants, teachers and judges). all together form the chamber of instruments, rather than a loud clanging symbol.
ps: my thoughts are only with respect to joe's post and not to the specific incident in the parent post.
- Dear Thomas Jacob Nishanth
OSSAE arts competitions are conducting as per OSSAE guidelines. The very particular competition you had mentioned in your posting may be a free of rule competition. OSSAE group song competitions have to be judged as 10 marks each of tune, rhythm and voice. The languages can be Malayalam or Hindi or English and song should be selected from liturgical songs used in worships. It is to be noted that it is nowhere mentioned that the tunes should not be adopted from Syriac. Judges have to evaluate the song what they heard, whether it in a good, pleasant tune, all participants sing in a rhythm as a whole and voice is clear and synchronised. Since no musical instruments are used in competitions, the above check points are much pronounced. If two or more teams are presenting same song and some teams presenting a new tune which is not familiar to the judges, the judges should adhere to the competition rules and not value according to their knowledge and
their likes and dislikes.
John P. George